Volunteers with Mental Health America of Jackson County recently continued a Christmas tradition of providing dinner and gifts to local residents with mental illness and/or developmental disabilities and their caregivers.

The Christmas Gift Lift social Dec. 8 at Central Christian Church in Seymour has roots in the mid-1950s when the Jackson County chapter of the Association for Mental Health collected and delivered gifts to patients at state mental hospitals. Many of those hospitals have closed, and those with mental illness and/or developmental disabilities live in group homes or live with parents or other family members.

Nearly 100 people attended this year’s event, which provides an opportunity for the community to help make Christmas brighter for residents of local group homes and those who live with their parents or other family members, said Bob Dembek, director of Mental Health America of Jackson County.

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One of those in attendance was Mary Goble of Seymour.

“I love it,” she said.

Goble, who has been attending the event for three years, said she just likes to come out and socialize with others and doesn’t really care how many presents she gets.

Becky Klosterman of Seymour said she’s tries to attend each year’s event and likes both the presents and the socializing.

“I know everybody here,” she said.

Caroline Bruce of Seymour, who has been a board member for more than 20 years, said the event has continued to grow over the years and now includes many people from outlying parts of the county.

Bruce said many of those people don’t have family, and the event is a good way for them to socialize with people they don’t see every day.

“They really enjoy that so much,” she said.

The event is one of several social gatherings the organization sponsors throughout the year, Dembek said.

“It’s important for them to be able to spend time with friends and have fun, just like it is for everyone,” he said.

Each person whose name was submitted beforehand was given a bag of gifts that included items they wanted and needed. There also were lots of door prizes given away.

The gifts are purchased through donations from Cummins Seymour Engine Plant, Kremers Urban Pharmaceuticals and Dicksons, along with area churches and civic groups.

“They don’t get a lot for Christmas, so we get what we can with our budget,” Dembek said. “It’s usually things they can use, like gloves, socks or a blanket, and then things they asked for, like toys or maybe a movie or game.”

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For information about Mental Health America of Jackson County, call 812-522-3480, visit mentalhealthamericajc.net or find the organization on Facebook.

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.